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Kern Shafter arrives at a Dakota army post to find it commanded by his old nemesis Edward Garnett. Shafter and Garnett despise each other, and the antagonism ripens in a competition for the affections of Josephine Russell, a beautiful young woman. Garnett repeatedly attempts to diminish Shafter in Josephine's eyes, and he sends Shafter on dangerous missions, clearly hoping Shafter will not return. A scouting mission in support of General Custer's command leads both Shafter and Garnett into the most dangerous circumstance of their lives. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Bugles in the Afternoon is directed by Roy Rowland and adapted to screenplay by Daniel Mainaring and Harry Brown from the Ernest Haycox novel. It stars Ray Milland, Helena Carter, Hugh Marlowe, Forrest Tucker, Barton Maclane and George Reeves. A Technicolor production with music by Dimitri Tiomkin and cinematography by Wilfred M. Cline.
Solid enjoyable fare that doesn't push any boundaries. Story finds Milland as Kern Shafter, a cavalryman cashiered out the service for running through Edward Garnett (Marlowe). After drifting for a while, Shafter ends up at Bismarck and joins the Seventh Cavalry at Fort Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, his new superior is none other than Captain Edward Garnett! As the two men vie for the same woman, Josephine Russell (Carter), Garnett continually puts Shafter into perilous situations as the Indian War rages. With the arrival of Custer (Sheb Wooley) to lead the men for an attack on the Sioux at Little Big Horn, Garnett and Shafter will each find their day of destiny.
It's all very colourful and muscular, with well staged fights and nifty stunt work. The love triangle core of the story doesn't grate or swamp the film in pointless mush, however, it seems strange to have the massacre at Little Big Horn in your story, yet only have it as a minor side issue to a couple of guys feuding with each other. Milland and Tucker, the latter as an Irish Private who befriends Shafter and welcomes pain as a test of manhood, both score well with engaging turns, while Carter also does good work with what could easily have been a token girl in the middle role. Location photography in Kanab is delightful (Cline would prove to be a dab hand in Westerns for the rest of the decade), and Tiomkin scores the music with verve and vigour.
There's some stereotyping of the Indians, and this even though there are some real Native Americans in the cast, while Marlowe is done no favours as his villainy is poorly written, but a better than average time waster this proves to be on a wintry afternoon by the fire. 6.5/10
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